Thursday, August 14, 2008

Blogging the NHC Summer Institute '08: Classes

(For an introduction, see National Havurah Committee Institute 2008.)

Judith Plaskow's and Martha Ackelsberg's class, "The Unfinished Revolution: Jewish Feminism in a 'Post-Feminist' Age," is discussing what's been accomplished and what remains to be accomplished by the Jewish feminist movement.

Yesterday, we discussed the fact that male and female are not the only genders, that about 1.7% of human beings are of mixed or indefinite gender. How can the Jewish community be or become inclusive, no matter what gender or genders individuals appear to be or what gender they consider themselves to be? I think of the traditional brachah for women, Baruch . . . sheh-asani ki-r'tzono, Blessed [is the One who] made me according to His will." Isn't that equally true for those who don't really fit on either side of the mechitzah? And might that fact make us think twice about gender roles in Judaism and in general?

Today, we spoke about "The Three Gaps" discussed in Robert Drago's Striking a Balance: Work, Family, Life (Boston: Dollars & Sense, 2007):

  • "The Care Gap--the difference between those in need of care and those receiving adequate care, or those adults and the elderly with disabilities, along with children, who get substandard care or none at all.
  • The Gender Gap--the heightened distinction between those women who succeed in professional careers and those who engage in care work for low or no pay.
  • The Income Gap--the increasing distance between high- and low-income individuals.

Drago also wrote about "The Three Norms," "broad rules of behavior that govern our expectations of other and of ourselves, and which carry penalties for those who deviate from the rules.":

  • The Motherhood norm--a society-wide belief that women should be mothers, and perform unpaid family car and low-paid care for those in need.
  • The Ideal Worker norm--a belief among managers and professional in total commitment to career, and high rewards for this commitment.
  • The Individualism norm--a society-wide belief that the government should not help those needing care.
Our teachers pointed out that feminists may have thought that just naming the problems would help encourage people to solve them, but that many of the National Organization for Women's demands from their 1967 convention still haven't been met. So they asked:
  • How do we appeal to those not yet already committed/interested in these issues?
  • How do we frame these issues for the community?
  • How do we frame them as issues for our particular workplace or synagogue?

Food for thought, quoth she, as she heads out to lunch.

I hope I'll have time to blog about Adele Reinhartz's class, "Diversity and Rupture: The 'Parting of the Ways' Between Judaism and Christianity," but, given the limitations of blogging from the library, I can't make any promises.

Check out the Jewschool blog--two of my classmates are also blogging the NHC Institute, and, judging by my two-second perusal on the way out the door, they're doing a much better job.

Update, 3:39 PM

I have less than an hour--unless I get desperate enough to haul my husband's hulking monstrosity of a laptop (he's a big-screen fan) halfway across the campus to a WiFi hotspot--to blog about my afternoon class.

My husband's class is comparing Isaiah and Mohammed, and I'm studying the break between brethren. Who knew that we'd spend a week of Jewish study reading the Quran and the New Testament, respectively?

These are some of the issues that may have contributed to the splitting of Christianity from Judaism:

  • Beliefs--does the individual think that Jesus or isn't the messiah?
  • Identity--who's a part of the group and who's not?
  • Behaviour--what do you eat (kashrut), who do you sleep with (circumcision), how and/or to whom do you pray?
  • Personality, and how one handles conflict--with hostility or with consensus?

Paul seems to have considered himself challenged by the Jerusalem Church of Peter and company because he insisted on preaching to the gentiles (pagans) without insisting on their conversion to Judaism. Circumsion seems to have posed the most significant challenge, in those days before anesthesia.

It's a pity that there were no recording devices in ancient time, other than quill pens, as many folks would love to know what Jesus and/or his disciples really said.


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